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Free MonkeyNotes Book Notes-The Aeneid by Virgil-Free Online Summary
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BOOK TENTH - The battle of the beach


Jove calls a council of the gods and commands that none of them interfere in the war between the Trojans and the Italians, which he had never wanted at all. He also informs them that Carthage and the Alps will be the cause of enough wars much later, but for the moment they must ratify the peace. At this, Venus reminds him of all the mischief caused by Juno with more in preparation like the aid of Deomedes. She urges him to let her take Ascanius away with her to a peaceful shrine while the Trojans may suffer or be sent back to Troy. Juno in reply blames Aeneas for leaving his camp and tempting fate. Moreover she pleads for Turnus the grandson of the local Latin deity Pilumnus as rightfully protecting his land and his bride from invaders. She disclaims all responsibility for the Trojan suffering which is a result of their own actions. Since the assembly remained unresolved Jupiter declares that the war will take its just course and he will leave the outcome to the fates.

So the war continues with the Trojans bravely defending their positions though much weakened. Aeneas has received support from the Lydian troops of Etruria who had overthrown Mezentius. Now Tarchon leads this regiment. They sail down the Tiber in ships under Tuscan leaders. As they advance downstream following Aeneas, the latter is surrounded by the sea-nymphs who were his ships. He hears about Turnus's attack and warns him that Turnus is moving to attack him and the Tuscan before they reach the Trojan camp.

At dawn Aeneas warns everyone to prepare for battle and flashes his golden shield as he comes within sight of his camp. This renews the courage of the besieged Trojans and they start hurling their missiles. The surprised Italians at last notice Aeneas’ fleet arriving. But Turnus spurning his troops on, with hatred for the invaders leads the battle. It is a close hand to hand fighting in which many warriors are killed. The Arcadians could not fight as a cavalry, but not being foot soldiers they fled the attack. But Pallas now rebukes them and they follow him into battle as he strikes down several enemy soldiers and great warriors including Halesus. Only he and Lausus never meet though each encourages his soldiers against the others’. Turnus’ sister a nymph warns him to help Lausus by meeting Pallas in single combat. Turnus outmatches Pallas in size and strength and kills him but returns his body to the Arcadians. Aeneas on hearing of Pallas’ death captures eight youths to sacrifice on Pallas’ funeral pyre and kills the Magus as well as Aemonides the priest of Apollo and Diana. Others follow Aeneas lead and cut down many foes without mercy and those Trojans in the camp can now emerge under Ascanuis’ leadership.

Meanwhile at Juno’s request, Jove permits Turnus to be led off the field. Juno creates a phantom like Aeneas whom Turnus follows into Ding Osinius’ ship, which floats straight down to his home. Turnus feels ashamed of having deserted the battlefield and wants to kill himself.

On the battlefield now Mezentius comes to attack and the Tuscans press upon him, but he is invincible killing all who approach. He is fearless and strides to combat with Aeneas, killing all those in his path. Aeneas attacks him but the spear wounds his groin. Lausus groans and weeps and as Aeneas tries to strike the wounded Mezentius, Lausus takes the impact on his shield enabling his father to escape but Aeneas now kills Lausus though deeply touched by his filial love does not take his armor and gives him to his people. They carry the body to the father. Mezentius repents his evil deeds and gets on his great horse to avenge his son’s death. He meets Aeneas who is on foot and after lancing many shafts at him Aeneas decides to attack the horse to throw the rider down and he kills him.


Jupiter’s council is a typical device of the classical epic. Only here, Virgil uses it to recall the attacks suffered by the Romans through Hannibal and the wild tribes, who came over the Alps and plundered the borders of the Roman empire. The Gauls and the Franks beside the tribes from Switzerland were a constant source of harassment and expenditure to Rome. As a literary device, the council is also an occasion for brief recapitulation of the trials of the Trojan’s so far, summed up by Venus and then Juno. It is a prelude to the ferocity of the war, which is to come.

Juno puts the entire blame for the war on aspects of the Trojans’ actions. She resents Venus’ interference in Italy, which she considers full of brave men. The Greeks of Cyprus and Cythera, who are devoted to Venus lead a life of luxury and creativity in the arts, unlike the agricultural Italians of old. Again this battle seems to be a clash of values and the Italians will have to concede to Trojan superiority as Europe had won over Asia earlier.

However, throughout the description of the battles which follow, Virgil manages to maintain a balance of victories until Turnus is led away and ultimately Aeneas emerges, as the victor. This is because Virgil would identify himself with the native Italians, he was not born a Roman citizen. Throughout these last sections he has portrayed the Rutulians as a rural but very warlike people. Many of them are presented as of Greek descent and/or descended from lesser deities. Turnus himself claims Greek blood and is the grandson of a local deity; soon his sister only mentioned here as a Naiad, will appear in Book Eleventh as an immortal because she was wooed by Jove. Such connections were a snobbish necessity among the Roman aristocrats, who wished to claim divine sanction of ruling their people.

This book is very rich in different types of similes as embellishments to the wild brutality of the action. In the midst of a description of a combat or a mass attack, these similes serve the purpose of suspending the force of the wildly driven action and excitement to allow the reader to ponder over it. It also breaks the monotony of a commentary on a battle, which necessarily tends to have repetitive action. Two similes in swift succession between lines 278-298 are particularly vivid. On seeing Aeneas, the Trojans fling missiles and shout with joy. The picture is compositely presented in a simile of cranes flying south with cries of joy despite dark clouds and the approach spark of light from Aeneas’ helmet is compared to a comet in an unclouded night. This is a juxtaposition with the clouded sky of the cranes and intuitively the reader experiences the shift of mood, the great hope that Aeneas represents as he arrives. But the next comparison to the dog-star (Sirius) is an ominous warning that what follows will be quite a devastation Sirius, a star revered in the Eastern religions, meant heat and high summer for the Italians.

Other epic similes here deal with elements like raging storm and winds (ll381ff) (ll647-8) (ll861ff) and fire (ll434ff) or like that of a lion rushing on a bull as Turnus rushes to attack Pallas are conventional battle similes. The use of mythical monsters is not too common in Virgil but Aegean, the monster being slaughtered is recalled in a rare instance ll608ff.

The use of names of the contestants with some formulaic description about them is another device of introducing variety in a repetitive action. The overall effect tends to be that of a chant, which would sound like a drone but for the interest, evoked through the names and thumbnail sketches of the participants. It also reminds the modern reader that wars in Roman times were not only faceless massacres as they are today. There was glory and remembrance, which made participation worthwhile. Perhaps this was Virgil’s contribution to the recruitment drive for the Roman legions.

There are certainly longer descriptions of combats. Pallas killing Halesus among others gets more than perfunctionary mention while his combat with Turnus gets the attention it deserves with the invocation to Hercules and the blow by blow narration. Similarly, the attack of Mezentius and his combat with Aeneas is the most important part of this book. The “scorner of the gods” develops from a fiend perpetuating tortures for his citizens at his first description by Evander, to a valiant and effective warrior and leader of the Latins and then to a suffering father who sees his son dead and reveres his horse too. Animal activists today might well convict Aeneas of crass cruelty to this animal.


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